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Not supreme, but I'll come back later - 60%

autothrall, November 24th, 2009

Though the Italian band Stormlord's keyboard-driven, 'epic' brand of metal was ahead of the curve (think of how many bands today use this formula), it was quite slow in getting to the point it now lies with the excellent Mare Nostrum. Supreme Art of War was the band's first proper full-length, after a few mediocre EPs and demos. The style was a mix of black, power and melodic death metal, with plenty of keyboards and both male and female operatic choral vocals, and though the record has its moments, I felt the mix of styles really fell on its nose here.

Part of the fault lay in the production. It's not hideous, but the mix of churning, low guitars, epic synthesizers, thinner guitar tone for the melodies and speed picked rhythms, off the hook Dani Filthy snarling sounds rather scattershot, and the choral vocals simply sound silly, as they often overpower everything else in the band, and it becomes hard to take seriously. And unfortunately, this happens in almost all the songs. Even the stronger, charging tracks like "Immortal Heroes" and "Supreme Art of War" are short-reigned when the female vocals enter the picture and foul them up. The double bass is quite flattening, but the rest of the kit languors behind the guitars. And speaking of the guitars, they seem too intent on meshing with the keyboards to ever produce much in the way of excellent, memory riffs; though they do get their gallop on. The lyrics are cheesy, but functional. I like that the band has always stuck to their guns, Roman and Greek history and myth have so many tales worth telling through metal music (though they have meandered outside the period on occasion).

There is a genuine energy to the writing, and I feel perhaps this must have come off better live than in the studio debut, but it's hard to shake the feeling that Supreme Art of War sounds like a group of Renaissance Faire/LARPer dorks getting together with that one cool girl from the college choir to record an extreme metal album. This time out, at least, it wasn't happening for me, but to their credit, Stormlord is one of those bands to improve with each release. You can hear that in The Gorgon Cult, and certainly Mare Nostrum.

Highlights: the blacksmith, the glassblower, the venison, and the joust for the good maiden's heart

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Blackened Epic Metal: 1st Draft - 96%

thatcoltkid, May 27th, 2008

People ask me why I'd make a Myspace... Well one day this band called Stormlord added me and I won't lie to you my friends, I was smitten. First I checked out their cover of Moonchild off of their third album The Gorgon Cult then figured these guys were worth the check out. First off I got The Gorgon Cult and I was pretty impressed but it left alot to be desired, I then stumbled across this album and I tell you not only is this one of the most uniquely amazing things I've ever heard, I'm willing to call it the best debut album since Melissa or Holy Diver.

I will admit I'm not the biggest aficionado of either Black or Power metal, but I was floored by Supreme Art of War from the opening keyboards of Where My Spirit Forever Shall Be. This album has a great mix of keyboards as both ambient background and actual music but doesn't sound weak in the slightest, the majority of the guitaring is heavy but powerful enough to fill the song with emotion, the vocals focus mainly on a black screaming style that fits perfectly well with the power metal feel but also have an interesting almost choir style of vocals during some songs. But the real star of this album is the drummer, this guy can play fast, this guy can play heavy and this guy can play epicly. As you'd imagine for Power Metal and Black Metal, it's mainly double bass work, but it never gets repetitive, something tells me this guy isn't new to drumming.

Now as for the songs, they have a recurring theme about the Roman empire (hell, these guys are from Rome) and the music reflects it (check out the instrumental “Sir Lorial”). Also, they seem to go for a very epic and progressive feel, with all but 2 songs going for well over 5 minutes and one of those two songs is simply an outro, but due to the length of these songs there are only 8 tracks to be found and only 7 real tracks.

Things start off with the masterpiece “Where My Spirit Forever Shall Be”, which is without a doubt the best track to be found here, starts off slowly with some keyboarding before a seeming never ending army of riffs take over, when I first heard this I didn’t know what to expect and I was floored by the opening minute and a half. Check out the riff at 00:57, wow. Once the singing kicks in you immediately get the idea on how varied these guys can be; first line – rapid screaming, second line – operatic vocals. There’s a great over the top chant along bit to be found in this song as well, it really embodies the black metal/power metal fusion.

"A Decent Into the Kingdom of the Shades" is as forgettable as it is hard to say, although the break at 3:00 has a kickass gallop which would make any metal fan proud, also has a hell fun yet cheesey and dramatic chorus. “Sir Lorial” is the previously mentioned Instrumental and is the only real song that is under 5 minutes in length (just over 2 minutes to be more precise), this song is really all over the place and has an awful lot in it in the span of two minutes, only problem is a lot of cool moments are cut short and the song feels rushed.

“Age of the Dragon” starts off with some cool opening passages spoken in Latin and unsurprisingly turns into a kickass song about dragons, ah the cheesiness of power metal… “War (The Supreme Art)” is what I guess you could call the title track is the shortest normal song at 5:20 probably has the second best riffing to be found on this album as well as the short but sweet chorus “SUPREME ART OF WAR!” Good times… good times.

“Immortal Heroes” is a bit more different as mid song there seems to be a verse sung by a woman that seems to come out of nowhere but doesn’t take anything away from the song, these guys really know how to throw a curve ball like this in songs.

Then we come to a close with “Of Steel and Ancient Might”, which along with “Outro” goes for a nice 10 minutes. This song really wraps up the album nicely showing off all the key aspects of this band, plus the keyboard “breakdown” around 4 minutes in is amazing, you think it’s going to be the end of the song then… bam! More riffing to be had! Finally, after 9 and a half minutes we fade out into the acoustic outro to fill out the last 50 second and the right comes to an end.

Sadly they would go on a spiralling decline after this album which took them 9 years to shake. Either way, this is nothing short of a masterpiece and one of my favourite debut albums ever.

Paying Tribute to the Roman Empire - 91%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, February 17th, 2008

“Supreme Art Of War” is the Stormlord album I like the most. Their style is a unique and rare excellent combination of black metal and epic melodies in the keyboards. In these melodies we can find roman influences and medieval ones. Anyway the group is always inspired and brutal at the same time.

The opener is one of the most beautiful ones in this genre with lots of tempo changes and arpeggios. The guitars and the bass are always extreme metal oriented, supported by screamed vocals. There are epic choruses and female vocals too. All in all a very good mix, that succeeds in not being boring or childish.The drums work on this album is remarkable for its powerful, precision and clean production.

The second track alternated quiet, mid-paced riffs to blast beats with melodic guitar lines. The keyboards are always very important, passing through goth oriented, epic, black metal sounds. No time to relax: extreme symphonic metal at its best.

“Sir Lorial” is almost funny with those blast beats over the typical medieval atmosphere with a sound of a feast in the background. It's fast, instrumental and essential with beautiful sounds, while “Age Of The Dragon” shows the most roman melodies with some spoken words in Latin at the beginning. Then it turns to a fast bass drum one with war melodies.

“War” shows again more roman oriented melodies in keyboards with only the vocals to lead the most black metal parts without being excessive or too brutal. Really, the atmosphere and the melodies are something so beautiful and catchy that is hard to image. On “Immortal Heroes” we can find Steve Sylvester (Death SS) too at vocals as guest, to make the song even more admirable.

The almost ten minutes of “Of Steel And Ancient Might” (with violin sounds too!!) end an album made of lots of tempo changes and excellent melodies. In a so abused field it was very hard for Stormlord to release a good album but they did it. This is recommended to anyone who wants melody mixed with raw parts and black vocals.

Epic as Fuck - 98%

ImmortalSargon, June 20th, 2007

For being the first full length, Stormlord has done a great job for the first blackened epic metal band. The album carries out the theme of an epic adventure very perfectly. It is synchronized very well as a full, which made it very drawing all the way through the album.

I would have to say most of the talent and value came from the keyboardist. The keys capture so many of the albums elements and remands unique all the way through with a variety of different lead riffs for the best epic atmosphere the band presents in the album. He ranges the elements from harpsichord to violin to strings, and piano. This puts you in a trance of an epic tale poised so effortlessly.

As for the vocals other styles of vocalization are also present, like choirs and operatic vocals, that is joined with the harsh screams of Cristiano. His vocals sound so well and devilish, definitely black. I would say his vocals carry out the extreme part of the album. At other times in the album he does sort of Gregorian mourns for more passion in the music.
The guitars are sort of background, but only when the keyboard is leading, other than that its very heavy, and there are a few great riffs that draw your attention. A lot of galloping along with the bass drum, and seem to follow the power metal sequence.
The speed of the album gets is mainly from the drums blasts and smooth double bass beats. It carries flow of sound so smooth and soothing with that great epic feel. The drummer is definitely good, carrying out 32nd notes so easily.

All the songs are great through out the album, each song never getting boring. If you are into epic ambient, symphonic, folk, or death metal, the album is sure not to disappoint you. This album will blow you mind away if you are fans of Wintersun, Equilibrium, Norther, or any epic band of the sort.

The songs that captured my imagination were Sir Lorial (instrumental), Where My Spirit Forever Shall Be, and Immortal Heroes.